Domestic workers comprise a significant part of the workforce in the informal sector which has been left vulnerable and jobless in the wake of the Coronavirus. However, SweepSouth has launched a campaign to support these workers during a tough period
Seven million rand and counting – that’s how much SweepSouth has raised so far to help domestic workers during the national lockdown. SweepSouth is an online cleaning platform that connects domestic workers with employers. The platform is raising funds for food and other basic essentials that active SweepStars (workers who use the platform) need during this period.
With the aim of raising R12 million, which will be stretched out over three months, SweepSouth co-founder and CEO Aisha Pandor says, “we had the idea about two or three weeks ago when we realised the impact that COVID-19 and other restrictions would have on domestic workers”. Pandor says they reached out to their investors (one of which is serving as the primary donor – the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation), as well as customers who had to cancel their bookings over the lockdown period – by appealing to them to continue contributing to their regular SweepStars over the period. “Between 43 and 45% of our customers have [made] contributions that have resulted in an additional donation of over a million rand,” Pandor says.
As far as the rollout is concerned, Pandor says “it’s going to be paid out weekly and it will be paid out electronically to avoid people going to ATMs to withdraw cash and to also avoid safety issues with handling cash”. With operations in the Western Cape, Guateng, KwaZulu-Natal, smaller operations in Mpumalanga and Kenya, SweepSouth has been caught in some controversy over how it pays its SweepStars with accusations that their workers are not being paid enough. With the funds that have been raised so far, SweepStars will receive weekly financial support in the form of top-ups ranging between R150-R450 during the lockdown period. The amount depends on the arrangement they have with the platform. Those who will earn higher amounts on a weekly basis will be those who work through the app as a primary means of earning an income — working through the platform three days or more per week. “And then the lower amounts will be for SweepStars who only use the platform as one form of income per month; for example, someone who has a private employer who they work with two times a week and only work with the platform to try and bridge the additional days,” Pandor adds. Added to this, they are in the process of negotiating rates with a number of grocery suppliers to offer discounts to SweepStars and Yebo Fresh is already on board.
However, in ensuring that some inactive members don’t take advantage, Pandor says they already have an efficient system. “Because it’s a technical platform, we are able to track who has been active and who hasn’t been. We’ve been paying out most of the SweepStars weekly anyway, so we’ve been able to track accounts that are up to date and those that are not. [Usually], if someone isn’t up to date or their account has lapsed or if their details have changed, we’ll then get a response when trying to make a payment and reach out to get updated information. It’s geared to handle any individual changes.”
Pandor says as soon as they started raising funds, they reached out the SweepStars to make them aware. Although the lockdown is currently scheduled to end on 17 April, there is speculation that it might be extended. With this in mind, Pandor says there are plans for the funds whether or not there is an extension. “If lockdown is shorter, then the funds will be used to assist SweepStars in a variety of ways. We’re looking at how that will work whether it would be something that we built up previously; free or paid access to educational courses or supporting people while demand goes back to normal. There are a range of options but we’ll wait and see,” Pandor says, adding that regardless of what government decides the funds will be used for the benefit of the domestic workers.
- Individuals can contribute via a crowdfunding campaign on the SweepSouth website (https://campaign.sweepsouth.com/ss-covid19-fund-2020) and institutions that want to donate can do so on the fund’s bank account.